Survey of Current Retrospective Cataloging Practices: Pre-1976 Government Documents in Regional Depositories and the Importance of Access to Holdings

Michele Seikel, Suzanne Reinman


Among regional depository libraries in the United States, most collections include a large number of government documents published prior to 1976. Much of this material may remain uncataloged because of several factors, including the sheer volume of material that was published during the mid-twentieth century prior to the advent of online catalogs. The availability of the US government’s indexing systems, which allow discoverability through the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification and Government Printing Office’s (GPO) Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP), has also prompted some depositories to postpone cataloging their older materials, and lack of staffing in many government-documents departments makes retrospective cataloging a lower priority. A survey of regional depository librarians sought to learn about the current retrospective cataloging practices and plans for these materials at various institutions. The survey responses indicate that the majority of regional depositories that responded are working on or already have completed retrospective cataloging for pre-1976 materials. Those that are not cataloging these materials are relying on CGP and library shelf lists to locate materials with SuDoc numbers.

Cataloging of these collections provides greater control over these materials and increases their use through the online catalog and interlibrary loan. But it will also assist libraries and GPO in the identification of materials regarding recent Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) initiatives, the Preservation Steward Program, the FDLP Regional Discard Policy program, and Guidelines for Establishing Shared Regional Depository Libraries. Also of consideration is the “Regional Depository Models: A Vision for the Future” presented by the DLC Regional Models Working Group in April 2016, which outlines the benefits of a fully cataloged regional. It can also assist libraries to determine materials for possible in-house digitization by identifying titles that have few holdings in OCLC and that have a relevance to the institution or state.

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